F&W Game Changers: OXO
Depending on when you were born, you may never have known a world where carrot-peeling was a source of low-level dread. Not necessarily due to the task's tedium, but rather the unpleasant sense memory of the bent-metal handle of a swivel peeler digging into your palm as you wobbled and scraped down the vegetable. It was an inefficient and often uncomfortable exercise for many, but for people with impaired hand movement, this could prove anywhere from frustrating to impossible.
The introduction of OXO's Good Grips tools to the consumer marketplace in 1990 was a godsend to home cooks. In the late 1980s, Betsey Farber was on vacation in Provence with her husband Sam, then retired from the housewares business, Copco, he'd started in 1960. She'd developed mild arthritis, and her hands struggled to find stable purchase on the handle of a potato peeler. It wasn't as if the couple could just pop to the local marché and pick up a more comfortable model; such a thing simply didn't exist. Sam Farber came out of retirement.
OXO's Good Grips handles, made of thick, no-slip rubber at the base and flexible fins toward the business end, shouldn't have been the revolutionary object that they are — born of a universal design principle that takes the physical needs of all different bodies into account. But at the time, right at the dawn of the Americans With Disabilities Act, they were the pioneers of an inclusive movement in the home goods sector, and remain so to this day. The Farbers sold OXO in 1996, and the company has changed hands several times, but the current owners, Helen of Troy, take the mantra "We Believe in a Better Way" as a mandate.
"We look at everyday objects and activities and we see ways to make things simpler, easier, more thoughtfully designed — better," says the company's mission statement, and OXO's current team of engineers only seeks to expand the scope of what "better" means. The commitment to beautiful, physically accessible design remains non-negotiable, but it's now paired with a relentless commitment to objects and practices that benefit the world outside our much cozier homes, too. One percent of OXO's annual sales goes toward supporting environmental nonprofits, and items like sleekly crafted POP storage containers and cleverly vented GreenSaver produce boxes keep food fresher for longer, cutting down on food waste. The majority of the company's now thousand-plus products are guaranteed for life, and who knows if the cooks of the future will look at them like that metal peeler of yore? Right now, it's hard to grasp the notion of something that's even better.